Following the hugely successful ‘How to Win Awards’ events in London and Edinburgh I thought it might be useful to chuck a quick post together giving some answers to the most commonly asked questions – expanding on the discussions had on the evenings and serving as a reference to those that weren’t lucky enough to attend. Please note, some of the following is my own personal opinion and is intended to be a useful insight into the awards process rather than a manual that should be followed to the letter.
Q: Are awards all about big brands, big budgets and big agencies?
Puzzlingly that’s generally the perception but in my experience that’s not the case. Over the years that I’ve been involved in the awards I’ve seen the theoretical under-dog triumph on lots of occasions. In fact, sometimes a smaller brand/budget project can have an easier job to do since there’s not so much expectation from the work. Likewise, people tend to forget that there are downsides as well as up-sides to being a big agency/brand – naturally people are generally fairly tribal in nature and often view the big guys with a degree of suspicion. This is one reason that the big agencies have to put so much work into their entries, they have to overcome this suspicion.
One of the reasons that I love being involved in the BIMA awards in particular is that we go to great lengths to ensure that we represent excellence right across the digital spectrum (an example being the year when the grand prix was won by a student project). There are a good spread of categories and this year we’re introducing the ‘Minor Miracle’ award which is specifically designed to give smaller projects and agencies a chance to shine. I can’t speak for other awards but as far as the BIMAs are concerned it’s simple: if you do good work, you should enter.
Q: What’s the key to producing a successful award entry?
There’s no doubt in my mind that many awards entries fail in part because of the quality of their entry.
The good news is that addressing this is simple – just make sure that your entry tells the story of your project clearly and succinctly and that you bear in mind the audience. Judges give up their personal time to do it and – depending on the awards – will have anything between 40 and 100 entries to review meaning that they might spend as little as 10-15 minutes doing their initial assessment of your work. If you can tell your story in 60 seconds then they’ll have more time to look at your work which can only be a good thing for you. One effective way to put together an entry can be to produce a short video (don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be directed by Ridley Scott!) but equally I have seen successful entries that consist of nothing more than a few bullet points.
Q: What’s the value of winning an award?
Plenty of companies function perfectly well without ever winning one but if you are lucky (or clever) enough to win one then the best way to think of it is as another business asset – if you don’t use it it’s worthless but, use it effectively and it could be extremely valuable. The value an award can deliver is varied but here are some of the most common examples of their use:
- Staff Motivation – Receiving an award can be an enormous boost to your team’s morale which, as creative businesses can in turn increase motivation to do further good work.
- Marketing/PR – Whilst winning an award doesn’t guarantee you a raft of new business wins there’s no doubt that being able to use as part of your credentials can be a major asset.
- Recruitment/Employee Value – In the crudest terms, being an award-winning agency can help you to attract new talent and being an award winning practitioner can help you get a higher salary!
- Applications for Funding or Tax Relief – For example, in our industry awards (particularly awards for innovation) can help to support an R&D claim.
- Valuation on Exit – Not everyone will – or even wants to – sell their business but if you think it’s something that might happen to your business one day then the awards you’ve received can be an excellent tool in negotiation.
Q: Are awards just cynical money-making machines that are more to do with selling meals than actually about the awards?
Whilst it’s true that the objective of most awards (including the BIMAs) is to make money for the organisations that run them, it’s important to note that much of the effort that goes into them is put in on a voluntary basis and that, if commercial success was the sole objective then it would probably be commercially more sensible to simply have a whip-round of the volunteers and not bother with running the awards.
Awards therefore are businesses like any other, for them to be sustainable they need to be credible and provide more value to their customers than themselves. In running the BIMA awards we’ve put a huge amount of effort into ensuring this is the case, we’ve done away with the dry black tie event and migrated to an event style that’s fun, accessible and frankly much cheaper to attend. So, yes it’s about value to us – it’s the key revenue stream for BIMA over the course of the year and therefore it’s what enables us to do all the other good work we do for the industry – but it’s much, much, much more important that it has value for you, our customers.
Q: Someone told me that with the xxxx awards you just need to book a table to get nominated and book two to win. How common is that kind of thing?
That’s not something I’ve ever come across in any of the awards I’ve been involved in and with the BIMAs there are no tables so it definitely can’t be true!
Q: What’s it like to be a judge and what’s the value of it?
Being a judge is a hugely enjoyable and rewarding experience and it should be said that being chosen to be a judge for the first time can be a career-defining moment. It’s a great way to network with your peers but probably the greatest value you can get from it is the chance to learn. Looking at other people’s work and accessing its merits is a fantastic way to increase your own skills/knowledge.
It has to be said, there are some down-sides though.
For a start it’s really hard work and requires a significant time commitment – somewhere between 3-5 days in total by the time you’ve attended the briefing, done the online judging, attended the judging day and so-on. Additionally (contrary to an ill-thought-through comment by one of the panelists at the ‘How to win awards’ event) in my experience, being on the judging panel may actually reduce your chances of winning an award. People are a funny, suspiciously-minded lot and therefore if find yourself in the privileged role of judge then you need to be really careful what you say about your competitors. if the other judges don’t happen to agree with you or perceive your comments as being an attempt to sway the jury then it’s likely to be reflected negatively in the scores that you are awarded.
Q: Why didn’t XXXXX project win the award for XXXX last year? it was much better than the actual winner.
This is a common question we get asked there are invariably good and simple reasons why this might be the case:
- The most obvious answer is that XXXXX didn’t actually enter the awards, unfortunately we can only mark what we see.
- It might have been than they did enter but didn’t do a good job of preparing their entry and suffered in the judges eyes as a result.
- It may not have complied with the entry criteria, perhaps it was released just before or after the qualification period.
- Maybe the judges saw something in the actual winner that you didn’t. Entries are confidential and therefore we may have access to additional information.
- Finally, it all comes down to the judging criteria of the awards themselves. Some awards are biased towards creative, others are solely focussed on effectiveness, the BIMAs try to access each category holistically with a bias towards the interactive experience as such our results may differ from other awards.
Well, there you go! I hope that’s of some use? Please do let us know if you have other questions and I’ll be more than happy to get them answered.